Children in care from backgrounds of maltreatment often struggle to perform to their full potential in school. Although the English government has put education at the top of its agenda for children in care, there remains a high risk of children in care being excluded from school, undermining their chances of closing the attainment gap. This study examined how young persons in care and their foster carers perceive and experience out-of-school suspension and the factors surrounding it. While analysing interviewees’ accounts attachment theory emerged as a useful analytic lens through which to explore the school experiences of young persons. The study draws on 18 interviews with young persons in care aged 14–18 (nine interviews) who had been suspended from secondary school in the previous 2 years and their foster carers (nine interviews). Findings showed that despite the great importance of school for these young persons, it was generally experienced as a hostile environment where they felt they were not listened to, cared for or respected. These feelings marked a breakdown of communication between children and school and were a central factor in the process that led to their exclusion. Drawing on attachment theory, these dynamics are discussed as reflecting the failure of educational staff to respond to young persons’ attachment needs and provide them with a secure base. Specifically, the Secure Base model for foster carers’ caregivingis offered as a useful perspective to frame teachers’ relationships with young persons in care.
- foster care
- school discipline
- teacher–student relationships